COLLEGE STATION — Texas A&M is going to need more time and a lot less turnovers if it is to join the Southeastern Conference elite.
Riding a five-game winning streak, the Aggies built a 12-0 lead against SEC heavyweight LSU, but turned the ball over five times and the sixth-ranked Tigers took advantage for 24 unanswered points — 21 off the turnovers — to beat No. 18 Texas A&M 24-19 in their first trip to Kyle Field in almost a generation on Saturday.
The Tigers (7-1, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) — shut out and held to just 61 yards through the first 25 minutes — scored two touchdowns in the final two minutes of the first half off a pair of A&M turnovers for a 14-12 lead at halftime.
Texas A&M (5-2, 2-2) actually outgained the Tigers on offense 410-316, but the Aggies turned the ball over three times in four drives in one stretch that spanned the second and third quarters.
Texas A&M has 13 turnovers in the last three games after giving up just one through its first four games.
“I don’t think there is any formula to stop turnovers. You just have to do your best to not let it happen,” said A&M senior offensive lineman Patrick Lewis. “We just have to do a better job of not turning the ball over if we are going to keep winning games.”
Michael Ford scored on a 20-yard run following an interception by A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. Then, after a Ben Malina fumble, Kadron Boone scored on a 29-yard touchdown pass from Zach Mettenberger that gave the Tigers the lead with 11 seconds left in the first half.
Missed field field goals and Manziel’s third interception of the game squandered scoring opportunities for the Aggies in the fourth quarter when an upset was still within reach.
Taylor Bertolet missed two field goals, including a 33-yarder after a 76-yard kickoff return by Trey Williams set the Aggies up inside the LSU 16-yard line, and Tharold Simon intercepted Manziel at midfield to set up Jeremy Hill’s back-breaking 47-yard touchdown run on the next play that gave LSU a 24-12 lead with 3:12 left.
“My team came on the road and got behind. But, we felt like it was only a matter of time before we got back on track,” said LSU head coach Les Miles. “We can win on the road in a hostile environment. A win on the road in the conference is good. Texas A&M definitely has an SEC environment already.”
Texas A&M proved it could move the ball against the SEC’s second-ranked defense — the Aggies had 256 yards of offense at halftime — but scored just one touchdown and two field goals in thee trips inside the LSU 30-yard line in the first two quarters.
Christine Michael scored just the second first-quarter touchdown against the Tigers this season on a 2-yard run that capped the Aggies’ 12-play, 75-yard opening drive. A&M led 6-0 after Bertolet missed the PAT.
On the Aggies’ next drive, Malina had a nifty 34-yard receiving touchdown called back because of a chop block, but Manziel completed a 21-yard pass to Mike Evans for a first down at the LSU 19 to set up Bertolet’s 32-yard field goal and the Aggies’ 9-0 lead with 5:41 left in the first. Bertolet booted a 50-yard field goal midway through the second quarter for a 12-0 lead before A&M’s turnover problems doomed its five-game winning streak.
“That game was a real tough loss. Defensively, we beat ourselves,” said A&M senior linebacker Jonathan Stewart. “Regardless of how many turnovers we had, whenever their defense gets a turnover, we need to match that on defense and we didn’t do that.”
Manziel completed 29 of 56 passes for 276 yards, but threw three interceptions and was sacked three times.
“The hump we’ve got to get over is execution and being consistent. It’s no different than what I said after game one: Against a very talented team, the margin for error is really, really small. We made too many today,” said A&M coach Kevin Sumlin.